Opuntia cespitosa Raf.
Synonym: Opuntia humifusa
Coefficient of Conservatism: 7
Coefficient of Wetness: 5
Wetness Index: UPL
Physiognomy: Nt Shrub

Sandy fields and plains, open oak forests, stabilized open dunes; sometimes in ± disturbed ground as along roadsides. This is a striking plant with showy yellow, red-centered flowers. The fruits are dull dark red, fleshy, and spineless. Our plants have in the past been referred to Opuntia humifusa, now recognized as a primarily coastal plain species with wholly yellow flowers (Majure, 2010, 2012; Majure et. al., 2017).

For such a distinctive plant, the situation in Michigan is somewhat complex. The primary natural range in the state is SW Michigan, from Berrien Co. north to southernmost Oceana Co. (south of the South Branch of the White River); collections from farther north are associated with cemeteries and old home sites and are presumably spread from cultivation. A few collections from this area have been noted by Majure as showing introgression with the more western O. macrorhiza​.

Opuntia cespitosa is also very local in sandy habitats near western Lake Erie in SW Ontario and northern Ohio. The one known Michigan occurrence from this area, in Monroe Co., is on a sand ridge in the Oak Openings region. Much of the sand ridge is occupied by a cemetery, in which the larger and thornier, more western, Opuntia cymochila has been planted (as also at sites in nearby Kent Co., Ontario). On the natural portion of the ridge, a little distant from the cemetery, there is a presumably native remnant population of O. cespitosa; the one herbarium specimen at MICH, however, apparently showing slight introgression with O. cymochila.

Other species of Opuntia from the west and south are also sometimes cultivated in yards and planted in sandy cemeteries; these often having more colorful flowers, ranging from yellow to pink or magenta. Opuntia cespitosa (and other hardy Opuntia) also seem to be favorite plants for planting in open sandy natural areas, especially near urban areas, so occasional surprises are to be expected.  


Allegan County
Benzie County
Berrien County
Kalamazoo County
Kent County
Manistee County
Mecosta County
Monroe County
Muskegon County
Newaygo County
Oceana County
Van Buren County


MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. A. A. Reznicek, E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. June 27, 2022. https://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=691.